I listen, intrigued. I remember my cardiologist saying it’s good to floss your teeth because it keeps tartar from building up in your heart. After that, I never looked at tartar sauce the same way.
Francesca was saying, "I read that if you clean your dog’s teeth, they can live one to three years longer. Wouldn’t you want Peach to live three years longer?"
"Of course," I answer, truthfully. I want Peach to live forever. Ruby, on the other hand, is a different story.
I’m allowed to have a doggie favorite. They don’t know. And they won’t tell their shrinks.
Francesca continues, "It’s not that hard to clip their toenails, Mom. Just get one of those clippers with the hole. Don’t cut the quick because it’s a vein, and make brushing their teeth a game. Use a peanut butter toothbrush."
"I’m on it," I tell her, meaning it, but it takes me a month to buy the supplies and another month to give it a shot. It’s a chore, when you have more than one dog. Four dogs times four paws equals a lot of toenails.
That would be the extent of my math ability.
Also I’m not sure I know how many toes a dog has, though I’m guessing it’s five more than I want to clip.
I begin with Little Tony, the least disobedient of my disobedient dogs. The nail clipper looks oddly like pliers with a hole in the middle, and its package reads Dog Guillotine Nail Trimmer.
This would be bad marketing.
Dog and guillotine don’t belong in the same sentence.
Also it comes with a styptic pencil "to pack a quicked nail," and already I’m looking for a tourniquet.
I pick up the clippers, put Tony in my lap, and bring the clippers toward his curved black toe, which does look a little Fu Manchu. But as soon as Tony sees the clippers, he writhes back and forth. I can’t get his nail in the hole.
The other dogs stand around laughing and pointing. The joke is on them because their nails don’t look good.
Anyway, I try again and again to clip Tony’s toenail, fighting the struggling dog, but I get so nervous I’m going to cut a doggie artery that my hand starts shaking.
I think immediately back to the days when Francesca was a baby and I had to clip her fingernails. I bought a pair of baby fingernail clippers, but she kept moving her hand around, fussing. My own hand started shaking, thus guaranteeing that if I kept trying, I would amputate.
So I gave up, and when she was 13, she clipped her own nails.
But I digress.
I gave up on doggie toenail-clipping and segued into doggie tooth-brushing, but that didn’t go well, either.
Dog toothpaste doesn’t come with a toothbrush, but a weird plastic glove that has a rough patch on one finger.
And if you try to brush your dog’s teeth, you’re in for a rough patch.
I follow the directions, which tell me to "introduce your dog to the toothpaste."
Dog, meet toothpaste. Toothpaste, meet dog. Everybody, meet woman with too much time on her hands.
So I open the toothpaste, which is green, gummy, and smells like pine trees. The box says it’s peanut butter flavor, but if I were a dog I would sue.
Guaranteed this is going to taste like Pine-Sol.
I sit on the rug with the glove and toothpaste, and all four dogs edge away, then scoot out of the kitchen. I chase them but they run under tables and chairs. I can’t catch any of them except Penny, who clamps her mouth shut with the jaw pressure of a pit bull.
So I give up.
Moral of the story? Sometimes it’s OK to give up.
Works for fingernails and George Clooney.
Look for Lisa Scottoline’s new novel, "Come Home," and Lisa and Francesca Serritella’s book, "Best Friends, Occasional Enemies: The Lighter Side of Life as a Mother and Daughter." Visit Lisa at scottoline.com.